DANE GUDAUSKAS INTERVIEW
July 27, 2004 | Written by Janice Aragon
DANE GUDUASKAS: " MY GAME PLAN THIS YEAR DIFFERED FROM NATIONALS PAST BECAUSE I WAS OUT THERE WITH A VENGEANCE."
Introduction and interview by: Janice Aragon, NSSA Executive Director
Lower Trestles, June 26, 2004, 3:45PM: It would be the second time on record that brothers have dominated the prestigious National Open Mens division back to back! In 1996 and 1997 it was the Irons Brothers domination-Andy in '96 and Bruce in '97. Now it's the Gudauskas bros ruling the roost. In 2003, Pat G. won with an electrifying aerial assault. This year, Dane claimed the big enchilada with his trademark polished and powerful backside attack on the Lowers' righthand nuggets. But this victory was not a normal everyday occurrence for the towheaded 18-year-old San Clemente High School honor student. You see, Dane had never won a major NSSA championship. Heck, he had never even made a National Open or Explorer final. Dane was always the one on the sidelines cheering on both Patrick and younger brother Tanner, as they would reap reward after reward. This year things would turn out different although it didn't start out that way. At the National Interscholastics at Salt Creek, which kicks off Nationals week, it was Patrick again who marched off with a victory. This time it was in the High School Men's category, his fifth National title in as many years. But there was a change in the air as the championship pressed on at Lowers. Dane made both the Open and Explorer Men's finals only to see Patrick suffer a big upset when he failed to advance out of the Open repercharge. In fact it was Dane who won that repercharge! Even though he didn't have his brother to contend with in the Open final, Dane still had his hands full. The talent pool was at its usual intense depth with Ola Eleogram, TJ Barron, Kilian Garland, Kellen Ellison and Kaimi Hui Hui. Dane stuck to his game plan in the 35 minute final and when he nailed the 8.0 score on his fourth ride, he was the one sitting in the drivers seat. Six years of heat practice, nose to the grindstone determination and competitive ups and downs finally paid off. Dane sent a message loud and clear. The critics have been silenced.
Welcome to the winners circle Dane. You now sit at the pinnacle of NSSA and amateur surfing success with the likes of Kelly Gibson, Dino Andino, Taylor Knox, Kalani Robb, the Irons brothers, Mike Losness, Greg Long and your brother. For icing on the cake, Dane took home a brand new Toyota Matrix compliments of Hurley. No one deserves it more!
MEET THE NSSA NATIONAL OPEN MEN'S/GOVERNOR'S CUP CHAMPION
FULL NAME: Dane Thomas Gudauskas
HOMETOWN: San Clemente
SCHOOL: San Clemente High School
YEARS SURFING: 13
SPONSORS: O'Neill, Oakley, Vans, Channel Islands surfboards, Astrodeck,
Jacks surf shop
SURF CREW: Neubauers, My brothers, Dowells, Ian Foulke, Longs, Franks, all the
San Clemente boys
MAGIC BOARD: 6'2'' mbm shaped by Al Merrick
WINNING BOARD AT THE NATIONALS: same as above
LOCAL HERO: Beschens, Dino, Benji
LOCAL TURF: San Clemente beachbreaks
WOW -YOUR FIRST EVER NSSA CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE AND ITS THE MACK DADDY OF THEM ALL. THAT MUST FEEL PRETTY DARN SWEET.
DG: It feels really sweet Janice. I couldn't even believe it. Winning one championship, that was a good one to win.
THROUGHOUT YOUR AMATEUR CAREER, ESPECIALLY IN THE PAST COUPLE YEARS, YOU'VE BEEN PLAYING SECOND FIDDLE TO YOUR TWIN BROTHER.
DG: Throughout the years I watched as my brothers gathered various NSSA titles and I was super stoked for them. I had never really won one so I never knew quite what that feeling felt like. It was hard because I wanted to win too. It just made me want it more.
IT'S KIND OF ODD, THAT YOUR CLOSEST RIVAL WAS YOUR TWIN BROTHER. WHO WAS THE DEFENDING CHAMPION?
DG: My brother was a definite favorite for winning the title this year again and rightfully so. He was really surfing well out there in the days before the contest and throughout the event. He was killing it for sure and he pushed Tanner and me to go harder and I am appreciative of it.
CAN YOU ANALYZE THE DIFFERENCE IN YOUR GAME AND YOUR ATTITUDE AT THIS YEAR'S NATIONALS COMPARED WITH THE PAST BECAUSE LET'S FACE IT; YOU'VE NEVER ENJOYED THE THRILL OF VICTORY UNTIL NOW. DID YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT WHICH MIGHT HAVE PLAYED A PART IN YOUR SUCCESS?
DG: My game plan this year differed from Nationals past because I was out there with a vengeance. I mean sometimes when you get second so many times or for me to never make a Nationals final at Lowers I was pretty ready to give it my all. I wanted nothing more than to raise that cup above my head and taste the thrill of victory- just for myself, to prove to myself that I could do it.
IT MUST HAVE BEEN A BITTERSWEET FEELING, WINNING THE MENS REPERCHARGE, WHICH PUT YOU IN THE FINAL AND THEN HAVING PATRICK LOSE IN THAT VERY SAME HEAT, ESPECIALLY SINCE HE WAS TRYING TO DEFEND HIS TITLE.
DG: That heat was a definite turning point for me in the contest. I only won two heats that entire contest-the repercharge and the final. It gave me a little momentum moving into the final which is always nice when you are surfing against such great surfers like those in my final. It was really a bummer to have Pat lose in the repercharge but he killed it throughout the entire event and I think he made his presence felt.
DID WINNING THE REPERCHARGE GIVE YOU EXTRA CONFIDENCE GOING INTO THE FINAL?
DG: I was pumped to win the repercharge! I mean it was a small victory for me just to make the finals. I was super excited so that excitement carried on through the finals for sure.
DID YOU HAVE ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR BROTHER ABOUT THE INTENSITY AND PRESSURE OF BEING IN THE OPEN MENS FINAL?
DG: Patrick was pumped for me to make the finals-especially since I had won the repercharge just as he had done and wore the orange jersey in the final. He basically just told me to blow up and give it my all. The rest will follow. He as well as my whole family was really supportive.
BEING THE ONE WHO IS NOW AT THE TOP OF THE NSSA MOUNTAIN, YOU CAN PROBABLY IDENTIFY WITH HOW PATRICK IS FEELING.
DG: After winning the Nationals, it gave me more confidence in my competitive surfing. Pat definitely surfed well all season and surfed his heats with that confidence. I think that is what Nationals gave me the most.
IT HAD TO BE PRETTY EMOTIONAL WINNING THAT TITLE AFTER PLUGGING AWAY FOR YEARS.
DG: After winning I was super excited. It was pretty emotional for me not in a crying sense but just in stoke. I was just so happy to have my family and all my friends down there on the beach. To win it in front of them and have them be apart of it was really special to me.
FOUR SAN CLEMENTE SURFERS HAVE WON THE NATIONALS IN SEVEN YEARS, MIKE LOSNESS GREG LONG, PATRICK AND NOW YOU. THAT'S BETTER THAN 50%! DOES LIVING IN SC GIVE YOU AN ADVANTAGE AT LOWERS OR IS THAT PERFECT WAVE FAIR GAME FOR EVERYONE?
DG: Those ratios are pretty good for San Clemente. I'd say living here is an advantage because of the local support. San Clemente is really supportive of its surfers. I can remember when I watched Greg win his championship, it felt like all of San Clemente was down there sharing the stoke. It was great to see. I'd say surfing Lowers on a consistent basis is great but it's not hard for a traveling surfer to understand what he's doing out there. Overall I think it's the comaraderie that makes the difference.
DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST NSSA CONTEST? IF SO, HOW DID YOU DO AND WERE YOU HOOKED ON COMPETING AFTER THAT?
DG: I can't recall my first NSSA contest but I can recall our first season. I think I only made one heat or so and I was 13 competing against 14 and 15 year olds. Although I lost a lot, I learned how to lose and to analyze what I did wrong and try to change that before the next event. I had a lot of fun though, surfing with good guys and meeting new friends. My first win was in the Explorer Boys division on my 14th birthday at Tamarack. My brother got second and Tanner won his division. It was the most bitchen feeling and after that I was pretty much hooked.
I'VE NOTICED OVER ALL THE YEARS, IT REALLY SEEMS LIKE YOU ENJOY COMPETING, WHICH IS A COOL THING BECAUSE A LOT OF KIDS THESE DAYS SEEM PRESSURED.
DG: I really enjoy competing. Surfing against such great surfers really pushes your surfing to another level and demands improvement. I'm a pretty competitive person. I really like surfing contests and playing ping-pong. When I play ping-pong I get in the zone and I want to crush the ball. The only pressure I felt was from myself, but for the most part I just try to have fun. My win at Nationals was a byproduct of having fun. That's what its about.
YOU'VE HAD SOME TOUGH TIMES WITH INJURIES OVER YOUR AMATEUR CAREER. DID THESE STRUGGLES PUT A FIRE IN YOU AND MAKE YOU FOCUS MORE?
DG: I have had a few injuries over my amateur career that kept me out of the water at times. Two seasons ago, I tore my ACL and MCL doing a floater at Puerto Escondido keeping me out of the water for I think a month or two. I had to wear a CTI brace for about 3 more months. Then this past season I got a pretty nice cut on the ball of my back foot in Hawaii that kept me out of the water for about a month just because of the location of the cut. And then most recently I noticed that my knees were really sore and that I couldn't bend down all the way without collapsing at a certain angle of my knees. My kneecaps were just a little off alignment and I had to do some therapy to build up the muscle on the inner thigh to pull the kneecap into place. Injuries happen, you do all you can to prevent them but sometimes they still happen. I think that they made my focus even stronger though because when you are out of the water all you can think about is surfing and new ways to approach the wave. When you get back in the water you have a whole new outlook. You appreciate it that much more. When you have an injury you have to stay positive and find other things that interest you such as lawn bowling and ping-pong.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MANEUVER?
DG: My favorite maneuver is a frontside slash. I love going really fast and on a nice clean steep face, trying to turn as hard as you can.
HOW MUCH TRAINING DID YOU DO BEFORE THIS YEAR'S NATIONALS?
DG: Before this year's Nationals I trained a bit. Ran, bike and swam. Our friends, the Dowell family is really exercise orientated so they pushed us to do plyametric stuff. It was great because it helped build stamina and helped to maintain energy throughout the long days of Nationals. We also did a mini triathlon like a week or two before the event. It was totally fun with a bunch of friends from our neighborhood. The next day I couldn't move too well but it was worth it.
WOW-THE GUDUAUSKAS BROS NOW HAVE TWO NEW CARS IN THE DRIVEWAY. MUST BE A PRETTY COOL FEELING, WINNING BOTH THE TITLE AND THE NEW WHEELS THAT COME ALONG WITH IT! HAVE YOU PICKED UP THE NEW RIDE YET?
DG: Yea I was stoked to win a new car. That was a definite bonus, that's for sure. I gotta thank Hurley for the donation. I credited the Matrix in for a new silver 4Runner. It's pretty bitchen and I was really excited. Patrick's and my first car was a '93 4Runner that we went in on together and now we both have our own cars. Its pretty amazing and I couldn't feel more thankful for it.
YOU MAINTAINED CLOSE TO A 4.0 GPA THROUGHOUT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL YEARS. HOW DID YOU BALANCE YOUR STUDIES AND SURFING?
DG: I finished high school with a 3.91 GPA and I was stoked about that. Sometimes I wouldn't be able to surf all the times I wanted to because I would have to study or do homework but it made me appreciate the times I did surf. The high school surf team was rad because it allowed us to surf almost every morning for almost an hour so after that, going to school didn't seem like such a mission.
ARE YOU CONTINUING ON WITH COLLEGE AND IF SO, WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING TO MAJOR IN?
DG: Pat and I are continuing with college at Saddleback. We actually just enrolled for the first semester. I am really looking forward to my Horticulture class but I have no idea for a major.
HOW ABOUT YOUR SURFING CAREER PLANS? ARE YOU OFF TO THE WQS?
DG: My surfing career plans are to do as many ASP events as I can, travel as much as I can and have as much fun as possible.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER HOBBIES BESIDES SURFING?
DG: Other hobbies besides surfing would include inline skating.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SURF SPOT IN CALIFORNIA?
DG: My favorite surf spot in California would be anywhere along the coast. There are too many good spots to narrow it down to one.
HAVE YOU DONE MUCH TRAVELING INTERNATIONALLY AND WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE WAVE?
DG: I haven't done that much international traveling. I have been to mainland Mex as well as Fiji and most recently South Africa, right after Nationals. I love traveling because it exposes you to so many cultures that you would never get to see in the states. My favorite wave internationally would most definitely have to be Cloudbreak. That wave is perfection.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST AND MOST CHALLENGING WAVE YOU HAVE SURFED?
DG: The biggest and most challenging waves that I have surfed would be in Hawaii. All of the spots along the North Shore are challenging and demanding of your respect. I like the waves and look forward to spending more time there next year and gaining more big wave experience.
HOW HAS THE NSSA HELPED GROOM YOU AS A SURFER AND COMPETITOR?
DG: The NSSA has groomed me for competition because it allowed us to surf a lot of heats giving us a chance to see what worked and what didn't work and also if we even liked competing- which I do. On the west coast most of the contest's finals would be in knee high wind slop, so if you didn't love competing, you wouldn't be there.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE EXPERIENCE IN THE NSSA?
DG: My favorite experience in the NSSA was this year at Nationals, the day before the event started. I was surfing Lowers and it was pretty crowded with all the kids from all over warming up for the event. I remember I was on the inside left and I met this kid from Hawaii named Tevy who was so stoked on surfing and having a great time. He was ripping these little lefts and I can remember being in the middle of a pack of 40 young surfers and thinking "this is what its about, being stoked and having fun. That is why we are surfers." It was really refreshing to see his stoke and I think that carried with me throughout the event and into the finals. He ripped and had a great attitude that really inspired me so thanks Tevy.
WHO HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE IN YOUR SURFING?
DG: My biggest influences in my surfing have most definitely been my family. They definitely have supported me and we have often sat down and brainstormed on how to improve my surfing as well as my brothers. I mean surfing with my brothers and all my friends at home is really great especially at surf class because we all would push each other a little harder each time. It's like, "whoa he's doing that, I gotta do it better." Always pushing each other but stoked for each other's successes. Also I really admire the way that Hedgy surfs. He is a definite favorite of mine partially because he rips so hard but also because he froths so hard too. He is always the first in the lineup and stoked.
DG: I would like to thank Garth and Micah at O'Neill, Brian and the Merricks at Channel Islands, Dino and Lippert at Oakley, Scott at Vans, Akram at Jacks, and Herbie at Astrodeck for their support. It's greatly appreciated. Also my family and friends and the bitchen town of San Clemente.
HAS IT SUNK IN YET, YOU'RE THE NATIONAL OPEN MENS CHAMPION!?
DG: It hasn't really sunk in that I actually am the Open Men's National champ, but I'm still as stoked as I was when I won the thing, that's for sure.
CONGRATULATIONS DANE AND BEST OF LUCK IN THE FUTURE. OH AND BRING TANNER TO THE FIRST OPEN SO WE CAN CHECK OUT THE NEW WHEELS!
DG: Ok, I'll definitely swing by. Thanks Janice and to the NSSA for all your hard work. It's greatly appreciated!